MSU's adventure: Solid finish for Spartans

Michigan State head coach Casey Lubahn, left, and the Spartans will play 108 competitive holes over four days.

The Michigan State men’s golf team will play consecutive tournaments on Sept. 15-16 and 17-18 at Wolf Run and Inverness. The back-to-back schedule is rare, but we think it will give us valuable experience and prepare us for future events like our 72-hole conference championship. During our six-day journey, my fellow captain and twin brother Dan and I will be keeping you informed about our trip...

• • •

Day 6: September 18

The sixth and final day of our golf adventure was the third round of the Inverness Intercollegiate. After a disappointing first day of the tournament that left us in ninth out of 10 teams, we needed a solid performance to salvage a good finish.

The day started differently than the other five of our trip: in the rain. It was a light rain that wasn't too impeding on our warm-up session, but it was just enough to be noticed by everyone. That drizzle, combined with a brisk northwest wind, would prove to make Inverness an even more difficult course to navigate. Exactly what we needed.

The round started as every round should; with a hole out. Matt made a 4-iron second shot on the difficult par-4 15th hole for an eagle-2...his first hole of the day! He used this momentum to finish the day with a 73 and post a top-15 finish. Mitch put up 74, and combining that with McCormick's 75 and my 75, we had ourselves the second best round of the day at 297, climbing us up the board into sixth, finishing our trip on a high note. It was a great round to use as a momentum builder headed to Skokie CC for the Windon Memorial next Sunday and Monday.

The trip in general was a college golfer's dream: six days of golf on two fantastic facilities, good competition, lots of laughs at Coach Winger's jokes, and food, food, food. Many people thought we were being asked too much of to try to play two tournaments back-to-back, but we saw it as just another golf trip.

For those of you who are wondering, our legs feel fine, we're caught up with our school work (for the most part), and we're not sick of each other. We'll have a quick two-day turnaround to sharpen a few things up, then it's right back in the van, heading to Chicago. Is there anything better than playing collegiate golf at Michigan State?

For now – may all your par-5s be downwind…the Spartans.”

• • •

Day 5: September 17

It was yet another perfect day for golf as we started our 36-hole day around the Inverness Club at 8:30 a.m. The course was in great shape and running firm and fast, the best anyone could ask for.

There were many bright spots for the Spartans: McCormick eagled twice, and Matt started his second round with five straight birdies (and added two more) on his way to a 5-under 66. We had some good rounds today including Carson playing as an individual, but didn't do a good job of putting four scores together and fell to ninth place.

For the third day in a row, we had plenty of support on the course from our families. Mitch's dad, lots of McCormick's family, Carson's dad, and my dad (doing his best to watch both Dan and I) have been with us throughout the trip; we even had Coach Winger's family make an appearance today after the round. It's always fun to have a gallery, and it makes it that much more special when it is your parents offering their support.

After the round, we had our second quality meal of the day in the clubhouse (great food at Inverness!) and headed back to the hotel to relax and get ready for 18 more holes. We have a little catching up to do, but we'll get a good night's rest, stick to our game plan, and play tough for the Green and White tomorrow.

• • •

Day 4: September 16

Our Sunday began the same way Saturday did, with a hearty breakfast buffet (it's all about the food with us!). We packed all of our belongings into the Spartan Golf van and departed for our last lap around Wolf Run.

Sunday's weather turned out to be identical to Saturday: 75 degrees, sunny, and less than five miles per hour of wind . . . dream weather! Wolf Run was set up in traditional Sunday college golf fashion with difficult pin placements and maximum yardage, requiring well-planned approach shots after accurate tee shots.

Our underclassmen, McCormick and Mitch, put up 72 and 75 respectively on the round to both finish in the top 20, a good sign going forward in this fall season! Our team ended up finishing sixth; not our best, but we are in a perfect situation to correct this . . . we get to go at it again tomorrow!

We departed Wolf Run as quickly as possible, and hit the road for Toledo, Ohio and Inverness Club. We passed the time by dozing off, telling stories from the tournament, and in the case of Matt, playing Pocket Planes (he says it's great and that everyone should play it). We made it inside the gates of the Club just before 7:30 p.m. and actually got to hit a few chips and putts to help adjust from Wolf Run's conditions. After, we headed to our second home-away-from-home of the trip, and settled in to get our feet up and relax.

Aaron Rodgers (of my Green Bay Packers), in a post-game interview after being defeated by the 49ers in NFL's Week 1, was asked about their team's quick turnaround to play Chicago four days later. He said that he couldn't wait to get back on the field and win a football game. This is the unique situation we are in right now. Not only do we get to go right back at it tomorrow, but we get the chance to analyze our mistakes from Wolf Run, find solutions, and correct them in competition TOMORROW. We're ready to put up some numbers at historic Inverness tomorrow!!"

• • •

Day 3: Sept. 15

Saturday started just after 6 a.m. with final preparations and breakfast in the hotel. With the shotgun start, breakfast was packed with all of the teams getting ready to play at Wolf Run (it would be a hectic hour to work the hotel breakfast buffet, that's for sure). It's always important to get some good food in the morning to get some energy before two laps around the course.

The day started a bit chilly, but by the time the 8:45 a.m. shotgun start came, the sweaters and rain pants came off and the weather was not a concern for the rest of the day. Low 70s with minimal wind; you can't draw it up any better than that!

On the course, we as a team always try to keep positive energy and stress making smart decisions regardless of score. When we saw each other today, we exchanged friendly waves and smiles. There were plenty of stories of great shots and birdies after the round (and McCormick getting up and down from "everywhere") as everyone contributed to the team effort; we have great things to build on for tomorrow's 18-hole finale.

The team in green and white (and awesome black plaid shorts) managed rounds of 288 and 293, which puts us in fifth place out of 14 teams. Tomorrow, we're going to look to grind it out, make no excuses, play smart, and post some good numbers to see where it puts us in the event.

After the golf, we quickly grabbed some dinner and brought it back to the hotel, in time to cheer on our fellow Spartans as they hosted the Notre Dame football team. It may be a stretch to stay awake for the whole game, but we wish the team well (along with our women's golf team in second place at their event!) as we prepare to give it our all for 18 holes tomorrow.

• • •

Day 2: Sept. 14

The second day of our 154-hole trip began at the Embassy Suites Indianapolis-North with an 8 a.m. wake-up (not too bad for a college golf trip). The eight hours of sleep was both refreshing and necessary, as the next four days' alarms will go off around 6 a.m. We enjoyed a relaxing morning: breakfast, Wall Street Journal, Morning Drive, and for some of us, a light workout. I enjoyed an online Political Science quiz, as well (who knew we go to school too?). The highlight of the morning for Dave and I surely was the analysis on Sportscenter of the Packers' 23-10 victory over the Chicago Bears.

photo

Courtesy of Michigan State

Dan Ellis

The van departed the Embassy at 11 a.m. for Wolf Run and our 1:10 p.m. practice round. After a focused practice session, we ate some lunch and headed to the first tee.

Wolf Run is simply a great Steve Smyers track, especially the green complexes. They are very intimate. Two of them are only 20 yards deep. It will be a stern test of patience and skill.

We played in a group of six, as most college practice rounds go, which allows for quite a bit of banter between shots while we played the "birdie game" again. McCormick snuck out the win, adding three late birdies in a row (he let us know about it as he always does).

A quick cool-down practice session followed. Then we headed to Texas Roadhouse to fuel up for our 36-hole day tomorrow, and so Coach Winger could enjoy a thick, juicy steak. We made some "fellow Spartan" friends and agreed to head back there again tomorrow (shout out to the many Indianapolis MSU alums).

Tomorrow we embark on the first leg of our four days of competition in a row. Wolf Run and Inverness: 108 holes, par 426. This is what college golf is all about. Being able to compete in the B1G against great competition is one thing, but being able to do it twice in a row is at the top of the list.

It's 10:07 p.m. – time for lights out. See you after the first 36!

Oh yeah, and good luck to the MSU women in the Mary Fossum Invitational this weekend! Go Green! Go White!

– Dan Ellis

• • •

Day 1: Sept. 13

photo

Dave Ellis

The MSU golf van was fully loaded (and riding pretty low) for our 1 p.m. departure from East Lansing, Mich. Somewhere among the suitcases, backpacks and golf clubs sat Coach Casey Lubahn, Coach Garry Winger, Matt Moseley, Dan Ellis, Carson Castellani, Mitch Rutledge, McCormick Clouser and me. We were ready for six days of great golf.

The first stop on our trip was at the Inverness Club in Toledo, Ohio for a well-planned, premature practice round. The staff at Inverness was incredibly accommodating to our situation, and our late afternoon practice round went off in perfect weather. The Inverness green complexes are a sight to behold. Donald Ross sure knew what he was doing when he built golf courses! We finished up on the historic 18th as the sun set in Toledo. Mitch birdied the last by nearly flying his second shot into the hole to win the famed practice round “birdie game” (most birdies wins bragging rights). We can’t wait to get back to Inverness, but have some work to do before then!

We re-loaded the van and hit the road for northern Indianapolis. While The Shawshank Redemption was the unanimous choice for a movie, Dan and I made sure to check our phones for Packers updates and react accordingly (we’re both Packers shareholders). Our dinner stop was at a Chinese buffet, which was a last-minute find that seven of eight guys were extremely excited about (the odd one out shall remain nameless). Andy escaped from Shawshank prison while Coach Winger did some great night driving to Indy. We’re all energized and ready to go for Day 2 of our trip at Wolf Run tomorrow.

- Dave Ellis

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